The Necessity of Beautiful Places


I know when I have visited a beautiful place because I convince myself, almost without reasoning it out, that this place has made itself essential to my life.

A beautiful place exists in time. One among many magic tricks that it performs is to break out of the constructed specifics of its appearance. Even beautiful cityscapes, with a view that changes every day, become monumental, geologic, in stature. Disasters in the city derive some of their visual power from buildings that take on the qualities of mountains, crumbling.

The beautiful place is essential because it reconfigures life, points it in a different direction. This does not mean I know where I’m now headed (usually not). Still I feel that, no matter how accidental my arrival, I couldn’t have done otherwise than be here. I will do it every chance I have.

But firm hindsight crumbles. It’s all too easy to turn away from the next opportunity: I’m too busy, I’ve seen that before, I know what it’s like. When I arrive again, I have the thought: beautiful places are as necessary as eating or drinking. This necessity has a different pace. Like water for a plant, it can seem indifferent to being ignored from one day to the next. But to go without is to let something die, to be newly vulnerable. Other dangers rise up, the real cause will never be traced back because the language and concepts for the loss have themselves been lost.